Summer signals the opening of the medical school application portals and the start of the road to acceptance. This is an exciting moment. If you’re reading this post during the process of planning your medical school application timeline, do one thing first: commend yourself.
As cliché as this phrase is, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve already endured and achieved a great deal, and that is something to be applauded. Now it is time to capitalize on all of your hard work and cash in on the time you invested.
A good road map for the application process and a plan of attack will help you do just that. Here’s what to expect. In this post, we’ll outline the medical school application timeline you should follow, including key dates and an ideal preparation schedule.
Not ready to prep your application yet? Read our Pre-Med College Timeline – 4 Years from Start to Medical School Acceptance.
Medical School Application Dates and Deadlines
The following dates represent the earliest you can complete aspects of your application. It’s important that you don’t simply follow application deadlines or wait until the last moment to submit. Successful candidates apply as soon as possible. Your own personal timeline should prepare you well in advance, allowing plenty of time to complete all aspects of your applications.
Applying early is one of the most important medical school admission strategies.
|May||AMCAS application opens|
|End of May or start of June||First day to submit AMCAS application|
|End of June||Application data first sent to medical schools|
|September – December||Individual medical school application deadlines|
|Mid-October||Medical schools begin sending acceptance letters|
Medical School Application Timeline
The AMCAS application typically opens during the first week of May for the following year’s medical school class. Once applications open, you have a month to prepare your application for submissions that open at the end of May or early June. To begin medical school in the fall of 2022, the application process begins in the spring of 2021.
Two to four weeks after submitting your primary application, secondary applications arrive. You should complete these as soon as possible, even if they aren’t due right away. Complete your secondaries within 7-14 days, but be sure to give yourself enough time to submit a quality response.
Interviews are scheduled during August and September and can continue into the spring of the next year. Don’t wait until you have an interview scheduled to begin preparing. You should be thinking about your interviews and practicing months before you receive an invitation.
Follow our medical school application timeline, which outlines ideal deadlines versus what’s technically possible. Remember: applying early is one of the most important medical school admission strategies.
Primary Application Timeline
Most allopathic U.S. Medical schools (schools at which you earn an MD degree) use AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) as their primary application service, with the exception of seven state medical schools in Texas and one in New York.
The AMCAS application opens at the beginning of May. This is the date on which you can start filling out the application with your own information.
The application cannot be submitted to schools until the end of May or the beginning of June, so you have about one month to work on it. As you have likely heard many times before, apply as early as you can in the application process! This is because medical schools use rolling admissions, meaning they review applications chronologically as they arrive. The earlier in the cycle you submit, the more spots will be available and the better chance you will have of acceptance (and vice versa).
In this post, we won’t go into all of the details of the AMCAS application itself, but from May to early June is when you will enter all your information and materials into the application.
Another step you will take at this time is to decide how many and which schools to apply to. This is a nuanced and important decision. If smart decisions are not made regarding the number of programs and which programs to apply to, with a strategic spread based on program characteristics, your countless hours of hard work on the application may go to waste. Consider our application consulting services to help with this step, as well as any component of creating or strengthening your application.
The last aspect to consider are the deadlines for the primary application for different programs. All programs differ, but most deadlines fall between September and December. The AAMC website provides a list of all programs and their respective deadlines. They also have a service called MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) which provides detailed admissions info for each program. MSAR can also be very useful when selecting programs to apply to and is a good resource to consider.
Secondary Application Timeline
Medical schools begin to review applications at the end of June. If you submitted your primary in June, expect to start receiving secondary applications a few weeks later.
Please see our prior post which discusses in detail the secondary application process. In short, secondary apps will be a series of essays or short answer questions asking you to elaborate on why you are a good fit for that particular program. Expect to receive a large number of secondaries during the summer. Use the same principle outlined above for the primary app: do them as soon as possible!
Do not compromise quality for speed, but try to get them done within 7-14 days. Again, the sooner they are sent back, the sooner the interview invites will roll in!
After tackling the process of secondaries, you are nearing the promised land. You have surmounted most of the grunt work of the application process. Now comes the fun: interview season.
Interviews are an opportunity to showcase your personality and strengths as an applicant. Some interviews can start as early as September, but the bulk of early interviews will occur in October.
The interview season then runs throughout the winter and spring, and later interviews can occur as late as April. Schools will contact you with possible dates, and you will be able to arrange your interviews based on your availability. Enjoy this process—it really is a lot of fun! See our prior MSI content on details of the interview process as well as our services which can help you knock your interviews out of the park.
Read our 5 Tips to Ace Your Interview.
The Final Step – Acceptance!
This is of course the mountain top, the peak you have been striving for. It will mark the culmination of years of hard work.
I can certainly say that I will never forget the moment I was accepted to medical school. The feeling of pure joy, as well as sheer relief, was as impressive as I had expected. It was one of the highlights of my college experience, and I cherish that feeling to this day. You will get there soon enough! Here’s how the last steps will go down.
Medical schools begin sending acceptance letters mid-October. You may be contacted any time thereafter, so early applicants may receive acceptances in late October.
Applicants can hold multiple acceptances until the end of April. Each program will use school-specific procedures regarding acceptance deadlines. The language on their website is nebulous, but in essence, applicants will likely be required to choose one program or respond to all acceptance offers shortly after April.
Another key component to take into account is the waitlist. Some schools may respond after an interview stating that you have not been accepted but rather placed on the waitlist. Though not the goal, being placed on the waitlist can lead to a positive outcome.
Waitlist acceptances can occur any time during the application season, but do not be surprised if they occur late. After the end of April, students will have to give up their multiple acceptances in favor of one, so it is very plausible to receive an admission off the waitlist after this time. I myself was accepted to a school from the waitlist in May, so this can certainly happen. You won’t have any control over the waitlist process, but it is something to keep in mind!
Those are the nuts and bolts of how the medical school application timeline will play out. Having this road map in mind will be helpful in planning your work, travel, interview preparation, etc. during the whole process. If you have already reached this point, you have achieved a great deal. As an avid basketball player, I love sports analogies. You’ve put in the time in the gym—now it’s just time to go out on the field and get a win. Go get ‘em!
Med School Insiders can help you follow an ideal application timeline, and we’ll help you create a stand out medical school application. Our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages are designed to maximize your potential with one-on-one advising, essay editing, application editing, mock interviews, and more.
We’re dedicated to creating a generation of happier, healthier, and more effective future doctors, and we’ll help you become the doctor you’ve always dreamed of.
Originally published April 2018. Updated February 2021.